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Sunday, October 18, 2015

body matters

We all have one.  Most of us don't like the one we are in and would prefer to trade. At least this part or that part.  I will take that women's hair and that one's ass.  And she can have these legs and this nose.
I am going to surprise even myself in saying this but I am sort of an expert on bodies.  I get paid to work on people's bodies; I am a massage therapist.  Plus, I have a body of my own as well. I have the moment by moment experience of living in my skin and regular encounters of having my hands on other bodies.
Working on people's bodies, having them completely surrender to my touch, is a privilege. Every move I make is made with an intention, to loosen, to open, to dig in and also to infuse tenderness, kindness and acceptance.  I travel my hands over the layers of skin and muscle, to the connections of bones and tendons, marveling at the sheer wonderment of the human body. 
And then a client will say, "Excuse my fat thighs," or "That feels good except I can feel that I am all squishy" or, worst of all, "I have put on weight and am very disappointed in myself."
These statements are like the ultimate bubble bursters.  There I am, in this moment of reverence, celebrating the unique conglomeration of cells that belong exclusively to this one human being, and she is thinking about how she has failed.
I say "she" because most often that is the case.
I have admired countless women, for their strength, their vulnerability, their guts, their rawness, their ability to live honestly, for their talent, their grit, their grace, their passion.  I have never admired a woman for the way her ass looks in a pair of jeans. I confess I may have been jealous from time to time of such a thing, but this has always been from the most insecure depths of myself, the place where I distill my own worth down to the size and shape of my body, a place that I work hard every day not to dwell.
How is it that as women have finally claimed our power and yet so often we still measure our success by a number on a scale or the size of our pants? 
There are so many stunning women (inside and out) walking around feeling inadequate about how they are failing in the great competition of living in the female body. What would life look like if we all stopped trying to keep up?  If we woke up tomorrow and what mattered was if you live with heart and if you give love to yourself and to the world.
There is an truth, however, that lies in the center of the quest to release ourselves from overvaluing our bodies: we still need to value our bodies. The answer to the question how do I free myself from the suffocating cultural pressure about my body? isn't screw them all, I will eat all I want of what I want and sit on the couch all day.  Not because you can't do that (you can and many people do) but because those are the not steps into love and care. Those are the steps of defiance.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a goal to lose weight, to get more fit, to improve one's diet.  But it is all about the intention.  Can we lose weight because we love ourselves, because it feels like a burden to carry those extra 15 or 20 pounds around?  Can we do it in a way that is full of allowing rather than fraught with deprivation?
I have wasted years of my life trying to manipulate my body into a form I would find more acceptable through punishment, regiment and control. I could sometimes effectively change but it never lasted.  I would gain and lose the same ten pounds, castigating or celebrating depending on which side of the swing I found myself.  Something deep inside me rebelled against those methods and I decided that I simply couldn't stomach it anymore.  I would rather have the ten pounds and rejoice in my body than feel like I was constantly failing.  
I would rather live in the body I had than constantly strive for one I didn't.
And will you be surprised when I tell you this part?  Adopting that more relaxed, I'm-on-my-own-side, I'm-going-to-enjoy-everything-I-eat attitude has made me less inclined toward excess and overindulging.  Giving myself permission to love my body means that often times I notice the nuances of my system and act accordingly.  When you no longer hate your body, when you aren't constantly manipulating it, you lose the desire for cruelty and something much more powerful takes its place: love, care, consideration, compassion, celebration.
Today, as every day before and every day that will follow, I am entirely imperfect. What fantastic news.  I can stop striving for perfection, not just in my body but in myself.  I can stop wasting my energy on a fruitless task and instead germinate creativity and passion in my life. Without anyone's permission or approval, without being an inch smaller or a pound lighter, I am working to love my whole self like it is my job. I am the expert on this campus. 
You are also an expert - an expert on the body that you live in. Congratulations. Together we can invent a new rhythm for inhabiting our own skin. Everything is more beautiful when it is loved. 

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